While certainly birds and animals experience the world differently than we do, “differences between species are differences in degree rather than kind.” “It might be obvious to everybody in this room that animals have consciousness; it is not obvious to the rest of the world.”
So say the scientists who signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness this summer at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference at Cambridge. The discussions focused on consciousness in human and non-human animals using “a purely data-driven perspective on the neural correlates of consciousness.”
“The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
For some, this may be stating the obvious. But in many parts of the world, animals are treated appallingly. Including in North America. One need only visit a typical factory farm or puppy mill to ask some hard questions. If chickens can display empathy, where does that put us?